Afghanistan: October 2012

After the end of the surge, and with France accelerating its troop withdrawal, the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan is beginning to drop. Fewer than 70,000 American troops remain in the country now, and the Afghan National Army has grown to nearly 200,000 soldiers. However, the desertion and attrition rates among Afghan soldiers is extremely high, jeopardizing the future of the current government as NATO heads toward its drawdown in 2014. The current war in Afghanistan has become a political talking point in the presidential election, yet there are hundreds of thousands for whom it is part of daily life, and has been for more than a decade. These photos show just a glimpse of that experience over the past month, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [40 photos total]

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A soldier from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment (The Vikings) stands to attention as his regiment receives their Afghanistan Operational Service Medal at Picton Barracks in Bulford, England, on November 1, 2012. The parade was the first in a series of events marking the end of their successful six-month deployment to Afghanistan as part of Task Force Helmand. The parade comes during the same week that two more British soldiers were shot dead at a checkpoint in Afghanistan by a man wearing a local police uniform. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #
Low income housing spreads into the hills on the outskirts of Kabul, photographed on October 4, 2012. According to the World Bank more than a third of the population of Afghanistan lives below the poverty line, and more than half are vulnerable and at serious risk of falling into poverty. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan-led security force, supported by coalition troops, detained three suspected insurgents during an operation to arrest a Haqqani leader in Khost province. (U.S. Army/Spc. Michael G. Herrero) #
Illuminated buildings in Kabul, on October 6, 2012. Reports state that Kabul now has an uninterrupted power supply as it imports electricity from neighboring Tajikistan. (Jawad Jalali/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan man with his cell phone in Kabul, on October 21, 2012. Mobile phones are the primary means of communication in areas of rural Afghanistan. (Jawad Jalali/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man rides his horse near the tomb of Nadir Khan in Kabul, on October 18, 2012. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images) #
A U.S. military surveillance drone camera prepares to land at Combat Outpost Musa-Qal-Ah after flying in Musa Qal-Ah district in Helmand province, on November 2, 2012. (Reuters/Erik De Castro) #
A UH-60 Blackhawk lands during a Medevac training mission at Multinational Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, on October 1, 2012. (U.S. Army/Spc. Nevada Jack Smith) #
An Afghan man makes traditional sweets ahead of the Eid al-Adha festival, in Jalalabad province, on October 23, 2012. Muslims around the world celebrated the annual festival of Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice, which marked the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca by hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. (Reuters/Parwiz) #
Afghan boys play on a destroyed vehicle on a hilltop in Kabul, on October 18, 2012. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
U.S. Army soldier SSG Norma Gonzales of 426 Civil Affairs Battalion reads a magazine next to fellow soldiers while waiting to be ferried by a helicopter to different U.S. military bases in Kandahar, on October 11, 2012. (Reuters/Erik De Castro) #
Soldiers of the Afghan National Army pause on October 22, 2012, in front of the Bundeswehr outpost in Hazrat-e Sultan in Samangan province. (AP Photo/Axel Heimken) #
A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 469, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, sits at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province, on October 4, 2012. (USMC/Cpl. Gregory Moore) #
An Alaska Air National Guardsman embraces his son on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson flightline after returning from Afghanistan. Thirty citizen-Airmen of the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Wing arrived in Alaska on October 17 after deploying this May in support of combat search and rescue. (Alaska National Guard/Maj. Guy Hayes) #
Band-e Amir lake, on the outskirts of Bamiyan, on October 23, 2012. In a spectacular valley swept by centuries of Silk Road history, the hopes and fears of Afghanistan's only female governor capture the mood across the country as Western troops prepare to withdraw. Habiba Sarobi's hope springs from the transformation of Bamiyan province from a place of massacres and oppression of women under Taliban Islamists to one where most people live in peace and young girls flock to school. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan child skips rope in one of the hallways at the Balkh Orphanage on the outskirts of Mazar i Sharif, on October 7, 2012. Some 58 children, mostly boys, live here where they are fed, schooled and educated by caretakers under the direction and support of the Afghan government. According to the United Nations, violence in Afghanistan continues to inflict severe suffering for children and is undermining efforts to provide a protective and secure environment for them to thrive. A recent UN report added " Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child". In many cases, orphans are survived by their mothers, however, in some parts of Afghanistan women are seen as incapable of independently providing for their children. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan instructor works with a police student shooting live ammunition at the police academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 13, 2012. On October 18, 2012, President Hamid Karzai said that his military and police are prepared to take full responsibility for security if the American-led international coalition decides to speed up the handover. But international observers warn that the largely illiterate police force will disintegrate after 2014 into factional militias more loyal to local warlords than to the state. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
This Ministry of Defence photo, made available on October 25, 2012, shows Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and his Springer spaniel mix Theo. Theo, the bomb-sniffing army dog who died in Afghanistan on the day his handler was killed, has been honored with Britain's highest award for animal bravery. Springer spaniel mix Theo was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal at a ceremony in London. (AP Photo/ MoD) #
Afghanistan's first female rapper, Sosan Firooz, sings in a studio in Kabul, on October 3, 2012. Firooz, 23-year-old singer is making history in her homeland where society frowns on women who take the stage. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
Afghans offer Eid al-Adha prayers outside a mosque in the outskirt of Jalalabad, on October 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) #
Ahmad, an Afghan man who lives in the hillside neighborhood of Jamal Mina and makes a living by making and selling wheelbarrows, watches his flock of domesticated pigeons fly at dawn in Kabul, on October 3, 2012. Ahmad, who is the sole breadwinner of the family says he owns about 20 pigeons, and that taking care of the pigeons and watching them fly is one of the few entertainments he enjoys. When talking about the uncertain future of his country when NATO troops leave Afghanistan in 2014, he says he hopes that the Taliban will not come back as that would mean a tougher existence and he would not be able to own and fly his pigeons. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/GettyImages) #
Claudia MacPherson and son Brayden stand at the casket of her husband, Army Ranger Sgt. Thomas R. MacPherson, as his body is brought home in what is called a Hero Mission, at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California, on October 25, 2012. MacPherson, who was 26, was killed October 12 during combat operations in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) #
Shepherds drive their flock of sheep near Mazar-i-Sharif, on October 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Axel Heimken) #
U.S. Army soldier SPC Katie Luna of 572nd Military Intelligence Company, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment cries while paying respects during a memorial service for platoon member, late SPC Brittany Gordon at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar province, on October 19, 2012. Gordon was killed together with another U.S. civilian and two others, after an Afghan NDS officer exploded a suicide vest he was wearing in Kandahar province, a military officer said. (Reuters/Erik De Castro) #
A boy walks with his donkey along a street on the outskirts of Kabul, on October 11, 2012. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Bodies of victims of a suicide attack lie in a courtyard of a hospital in Maymana, Faryab province, on October 26, 2012. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing dozens of people and wounding scores, government and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Talash Suroosh) #
U.S. soldiers rest during an operation on a cold morning near the town of Walli Was in Paktika province, on November 2, 2012. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic) #
U.S. Army soldier 1LT Tory Hoyt (right), platoon leader of Attack Co, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, looks at his photos on the cell phone of Afghan soldier Sgt Kehan Toonyali, of Weapons Co, 3rd/205th KDK as they celebrate the Eid al-Adha festival at Combat Outpost Makuan in Kandahar province, on October 26, 2012. (Reuters/Erik De Castro) #
US Army soldiers attached to 2nd platoon, C troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 91st U.S Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, carry a wounded colleague after he was injured in an Improvised Explosive Device blast during a patrol near Baraki Barak base in Logar Province, on October 13, 2012. The soldier, 21 year-old Private Ryan Thomas from Oklahoma suffered soft tissue damage and after surgery in Afghanistan was scheduled to be evacuated to Germany (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images) #
Noorullah Hamidi, who owns a women's dress shop, poses with a photograph of his brother Hafizullha, who was killed near the shop while trying to flee street fighting during the last civil war in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, October 7, 2012. Residents fear the possible start of another civil war as NATO withdrawal approaches. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic) #
An Afghan man and a child ride a donkey on a road leading into the small town of Baharak in the province of Badakhshan in the late afternoon of October 6, 2012. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/GettyImages) #
Mourners react as a hearse carrying the body of Corporal Channing Day passes the Memorial Garden in Carterton, near Brize Norton in southern England, on October 30, 2012. Day, from 3 Medical Regiment, and Corporal David O'Connor, from 40 Commando Royal Marines, were shot dead in Afghanistan on October 24 whilst on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. (Reuters/Kieran Doherty) #
Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills rides in the back of a Jeep during a Vassar, Michigan, homecoming parade, on October 4, 2012. Mills is visiting his hometown for the first time since losing all four limbs while fighting in Afghanistan. Mills, his wife, Kelsey, and their 1-year-old daughter, Chloe, were the grand marshals of Vassar High School's homecoming parade. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) #
Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills plays with his daughter Chloe in his boyhood home in Vassar, Michigan,on October 4, 2012. Mills is visiting his hometown for the first time since losing all four limbs while fighting in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) #
An Afghan circus performer rides a motorcycle on a "Wall of Death" on the third day of Eid al-Adha in Jalalabad, on October 28, 2012. (Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army soldier PFC Daniel Wachira, of HHC-Mortars, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, eats local Afghan bread as he takes a break from packing at Combat Outpost Nagahan in Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province, on October 24, 2012. The U.S. military is closing down Combat Outpost Nagahan as part of a reduction in their bases in the Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province, a military officer said. (Reuters/Erik De Castro) #
A police officer undergoes training by the European Union's police mission in Afghanistan at the Kabul college for crime scene analysis at the Central Training Center in Kabul, on October 2, 2012. More than 800 students have passed through Kabul's school for detectives as Afghanistan's Western allies prepare to hand over full responsibility for security to the Afghan military and police by a 2014 withdrawal date. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
U.S. soldiers of B Troop, 1st squadron of 4th US Cavalry Regiment, fire a 120 mm mortar shell during a mortar registration exercise at COP Sar Howza in Paktika province, on October 29, 2012. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic) #
Afghan National Police officers line up with tea cups before breakfast at the Police Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 9, 2012. NATO defense leaders gathering in Brussels Tuesday are committed to the war in Afghanistan, according to U.S. and alliance officials, but there are growing signs that the Afghan political and military hostilities against the coalition are starting to wear on the coalition. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Army Corp. Edwin Liriano kisses his wife, Lissette Liriano, of Silver Spring, Maryland, on return from a ten month deployment in Afghanistan with the D.C. Army National Guard's 273rd Military Police Company, at the National Guard Armory in Washington, on October 14, 2012. The Lirianos had been married for just two months before he was deployed. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) #

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